‘Plan B’ (a crowd safety code) was emblazoned in Incredible Hulk-size lettering across the big screen on the site once occupied by the Nally Stand moments after Barry Kelly’s full-time whistle.
Sadly for Waterford, their Plan A never came close to bearing fruit in this lopsided All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final.
For they were ruthlessly swept aside by an awesome Kilkenny performance, the likes of which anyone I spoke to afterwards had never before witnessed.
It really was that good. Actually, good isn’t the right word. It was better than good, so good that the superlative department was working overtime in the Croke Park press room on Sunday night. Genial. Magical. Perfect. Take your pick.
I’d swear a few laptops shorted out down Jones’s Road as the praise, and rightly so, was heaped upon this extraordinary hurling outfit by the scribes of Gaeldom.
“I’ve seen a few now, going back to 1957” said ex-Kilkenny County Board Chairman Ned Quinn in the bowels of the Hogan Stand, “but I’ve never seen anything as good as that.”
And when you consider that the Cats have won 17 titles in that space of time, Quinn is in a better position than most to make such an observation. And to think what we on the Suir’s south bank wouldn’t give for one. Just one.
For the Deise’s players and management, scant consolation will be drawn from the fact that this massive reversal came at the hands of the greatest hurling team of all-time.
To lose in an All-Ireland final by 23 points will hurt long into the winter. For some of those contemplating their inter-county futures, it’ll hurt for a hell of a lot longer.
But when we find ourselves in times of trouble, a pill marked perspective is always one worth popping.
Try being a hurling supporter in Galway for not just the past two years under Ger Loughnane, but for the past 20. They’ve had a fraction of the great Sundays that Deise fans have enjoyed over the past drama-filled, action packed decade.
That they possess in Joe Canning a player destined to be ranked alongside Ring, Keher and Mackey won’t count for as much as it ought to should they fail to lift Liam McCarthy during his career.
Try being a hurling supporter in Antrim, a county that’s been woefully disenfranchised under the current Championship system, hopefully a situation that won’t remain the case for too much longer.
Try being a hurling supporter in Laois, where Damian Fox felt he had no alternative but to step down as manager given the lack of numbers attending training sessions. Imagine the public outcry in Waterford if only 13 senior players turned up for a session called by Davy Fitz?
Try being a hurling supporter in Limerick, where last year’s All-Ireland finalists lost both their Championship outings this time around and are currently in the process of looking for another manager.
So to anyone wagging fingers this week, especially anyone that’s stepped on the revisionist bandwagon when it comes to the subject of Justin McCarthy’s demise, spare me such nonsense.
Of course, there are many genuine Waterford fans out there still upset at the manner of McCarthy’s departure and they’re not without their reasons for feeling that way.
But if anyone can produce someone who was pleased to see our most successful ever manager leave office the way he did, fair play to ye as I’ve yet to encounter such a soul.
While Justin arguably deserved better, so too did some panellists whom the former manager barely communicated with for quite some time prior to his vacating the bib.
It’s worth pointing out that none of the panel has spoken on the record about what exactly went on in the days that led to their meeting in Tramore back in June – and that’s to their credit.
Look at it this way: hand on heart, would Waterford have reached an All-Ireland final under a manager who had clearly lost the dressing room? Highly unlikely.
The record can now safely testify that when it comes to Justin McCarthy, the Deise and the All-Ireland final that it was 2007 or never. More’s the pity.
Davy Fitzgerald will undoubtedly have learned a great deal over the past 13 weeks and I for one hope he’ll stick around for another spin on the hurling merry-go-round with his adopted county.
In his post-match comments, Fitzgerald referred back to the darkest of his own inter-county playing days – the 18-point 1993 Munster final defeat to Tipperary.
Within two years of that hammering, Clare were All-Ireland hurling champions. Within four years of that hammering, they had defeated Tipp twice in the same summer in claiming the Munster and McCarthy Cups.
He is not without knowledge when it comes to lifting himself off the floor, looking inside himself and manifesting the sweat, tears and blood required to make ‘citius altius fortius’ a reality. As he wrote in his Star column on Saturday, nothing is impossible. He should know.
Kilkenny have set a standard never before achieved in hurling and they’re to be saluted. Seldom has a player struck the ball as truly as Henry Shefflin does.
Seldom has a full-back so completely commanded his position as Noel Hickey remarkably has these past two games. Seldom has a player produced match-turning bursts the way that Eddie Brennan continues to produce. I could go on.
They have set the standard that every other county must aspire to. To get there will not be easy, but it is a journey that Waterford and many other counties know is worth embarking upon.
One other thing: to anyone that’s been slagging the Waterford team off for the past few days, if you remember nothing else this week, please remember this.
Remember how you felt when the full-time whistle blew against Tipperary at Croke Park. The elation of it. The joy of it. The emotion of it. Remember who made that feeling possible.
Lads, thanks for a wonderful adventure, not just this year, but over the past 10 years. But don’t take too long to get back on the horse and out on the gallops again.
As Davy Fitzgerald said on Sunday, this wonderful Kilkenny team will be stopped, probably later rather than sooner such is their prowess currently.
But when that happens, and it will happen, why can’t Waterford be the team to halt their march? After all, nothing is impossible. Nothing.
So salute the magnificent Cats and remember what a privilege it was to see hurling played the way it was by the champions last Sunday. But let’s move to a fresh page and, to use a Davy Fitzy-ism, “have a good cut at it” in 2009 and beyond.